Thank you to my genius boyfriend for deciding that if I’m going to write on all of the topics in the list, I should just start with the first one. (One of them that I have been dreading honestly.) Thanks for the advice; I should have known better than to ask you!
1. That thing that happened in high school that pretty much changed your life forever
So here’s the thing… this story starts way back before high school even began. Probably sixth or seventh grade actually. When I started to be bullied, sometimes by people that I had considered my best friends. This fact isn’t super important until you take into account that it made me extremely nervous about my first day of high school. A new start some people say? Or just a continuation of my middle school years (as I had assumed it would be)?
I arrived at school that morning feeling pretty nervous but overall good about myself. I was interested to see how things would work out and what my classes would be like. I’m a nerd, geek, dork, whatever- but back then I hated school. All I wanted that day was to survive.
The first few periods were stressful but decent. (How exactly do you traverse three sets of stairs and travel to the other end of the school in five minutes? Why wouldn’t my locker’s lock open so I could just get that textbook!?) Then I got to English. Oh English, how I love you. But back then, something had changed my mind.
The teacher was an older lady and instead of being in a class of students of high achievement as I was used to (sorry, I’m not trying to brag), I was with a mixed group of freshman. Yay me! No more bullying, I thought. She started speaking about the course syllabus, the supplies we would need to bring to class each day, and the normal first-day topics. We all sat silently (and bored) as she rambled about what was supposed to be important material. I never used that information again…
At the end of class, we were asked to raise our hand if there were questions. Many students asked silly things- can we write in pen? How much homework will we have? Do we need to carry this book with us all the time? What did you say earlier about needing a notebook and a binder?
I sat in the back of the classroom bored. Then I realized that there was a question I had been meaning to ask for weeks. You see, it is school’s policy that each summer the students read three “exciting summer reads”. When they return to school, they test on each of the three books that they have read: one essay, one exam, and one presentation or some nonsense like that.
Anyway, my friends, cousins, etc. had all been discussing these summer reading books with me over the summer since it was my first time completing the assignment. I didn’t know how much information I needed to remember, how much detail I would need to recall later on. So I asked. Some people said I had to write all of my own notes, some said I could use a review page (pulled from somewhere like SparkNotes) to job my memory. There were no straight answers- everyone had something different to say. So… that day, sitting in that hot, non-air-conditioned classroom with a bunch of other froshes, I asked the question that I had been wondering about for weeks.
“What is the deal with the summer reading exam? Can we use a review sheet or must we use our own notes in order to complete the test?” Simple. Innocent.
Yet that one moment where I had decided to speak out amongst my peers changed my life forever. It, along with the last class of the day (Gym, of all things) is what finally pushed me over the edge.
You see, the teacher replied in a nasty tone. What she had to say wasn’t nice. In my opinion, asking the question was better than assuming the answer. But not to her. To this grey-haired menace, I was asking whether she would let me get away with cheating or not. Thus ensued a huge lecture…
“If you, or anyone else in here for that matter, think that you are going to cheat on this exam, think again! It will not be tolerated in this classroom and I will NEVER let you get away with it. Whatever you might be thinking about doing, think again…” Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I was lucky that I wasn’t in tears. I survived that class, and the class after that (where I got yelled at for having a broken finger and “trying to get out of” playing volleyball). By the time I got home, my face was red, my eyes were swollen, and I had had enough.
My parents tried to fix the situation- they had for years. Talk to the teachers about the students who were bullying me. Explain my anxiety and seek simple accommodations. Then, the evening of my first day as a “big freshman”, they tried to get my class schedule transferred so that I didn’t have to deal with the bully of a teacher that I had.
The school wouldn’t work with me, not at all. I couldn’t test out of a grade (even just for English). I couldn’t have another teacher (she was the only one who taught the college level courses that my “brain” needed. I was stuck. The guidance counselor would not even meet with my parents to discuss the situation in person. However, they did inform us that my best bet was to just “go to another school.” They even went so far as to recommend one. A cyber school- the new, cool thing to do. It was a school where the district sent all of their delinquents, pregnant teens, etc. But that’s where I ended up. That’s where I stayed. For all three years of my high school experience (haha to you district!). I graduated top ten of my class even though I was only a Junior, and I haven’t regretted it since.
The worst first day of high school that I could have imagined became one of the best things that ever happened to me. The three years that followed were the best years of my life. They convinced me that school is something I am allowed to love. Being smart is a bonus, an asset, not something to hide and deny. I met my inspiration there- the math teacher who convinced me I was good enough to take AP tests my freshman year with the rest of the seniors.
I have bad thoughts about those days still. But I haven’t truly, wholly regretted the decision to leave public school since.
For those of you who think that decisions and actions described above were overreactions, please do not forget that you should not judge a book by its cover. My blog is new, you are all people whom I’ve never met in my life. The situations described may not be life-changing to you, but they were a huge deal to me. Please keep that in mind when commenting. However, if you have some constructive criticism or something nice to say, please let me know in the comments below!